Hook & Master, a new Chicago Tavern-style pizzeria at 2nd & Master in Fishtown/Olde Kensington, results from a new partnership between James Beard Award-Winning/Iron Chef Jose Garces and pizza guru Steven Seibel. In addition to ambitious pizza offerings (3 styles!), the concept also features tiki drinks, craft beer, and small antipasti-style dishes.
If you’ve read my (woefully out of date!) guide to tiki drinks in Philadelphia, you’ll know I’m a bit of a tiki aficionado. No offense to the chefs, but the tiki drinks initially excited me the most about the place. Then, I got even more excited when I learned Shannon Mustipher (author of Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails) conceptualized the drink menu.
The Yachtsman and Upstairs Tiki (at the Franklin Bar) were the most recent establishments that attempted to go for a Polynesian-inspired rum bar vibe, with complex cocktails in tiki mugs and tropical island decor. Each pulled it off pretty well, and while the clientele was there, the niche was short-lived.
True tiki lovers may lament the lack of—and frankly pine for—tiki in Philadelphia. While the decor doesn’t “wow,” Hook & Master’s upstairs “tiki lounge” is the closest to a tiki bar Philly has since the demise of those mentioned above.
The drinks, on the other hand, are respectable. Shannon’s recipes are in good mixologist hands with Mike Achuff behind the upstairs bar. If you’re looking for an introduction to tiki cocktails, this is an excellent place to start. Mike’s adept mixology skills hold promise that Philly could once again see a comeback interest in tiki drinks. His desire to honor the early trailblazers of the tiki drink movement and source higher-quality ingredients (better rums, housemade syrups, etc.) will be essential in the evolution of Hook & Master’s tiki program.
I enjoyed the Hi-Tide (a riff on the Mai Tai), Junglebird, and El Diablo during my visit. All very sessionable, and complementary to the seafood-centric tapas menu.
Primarily, the Sweet Amalia Oysters (from a Cape May oyster farm) and grilled octopus dish were faultless. These South Jersey oysters are some of the best in the country; succulently plump and sweet! Served with a lovely tangy cocktail sauce and champagne mignonette, and fresh lemon wedges, they were a delight to slurp.
The grilled octopus had Garces’ signature all over it; cooked perfectly tender, it paired exceptionally well with creamy garbanzo puree, sweet cherry tomatoes, hot paprika oil, and crispy chickpeas – for a triumph in texture and finesse in flavor balance. It’s one of his favorite dishes (noted on the menu) and one of mine now.
Chef Steven’s obsession with pizza is a gift to Pizzadelphia. I took two Brooklyn-style pizzas home to enjoy – the Traditional Cheese and Tomato Pie. Each had the right amount of topping with a thin, crispy crust. If these are any indication, I must return soon for the Chicago pan and tavern-style pizzas.
Hook & Master currently seats 25 in the downstairs eatery and 45 upstairs in the Tiki Lounge. Next summer, the outside “Octopus Garden” will seat 80.
Hook & Master offers a takeout window where those who remain COVID-cautious can not only order Hook & Master ready-to-eat takeout, but can also order take-and-bake uncooked tavern-style pizza dough that can be thrown into the oven at home.
Hook & Master is a welcome addition to the already hot Fishtown food scene. Check it out and tell them Philly Grub sent ya!
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